Javier Hernandez’ contract situation is a curious one yet, in my opinion, one Manchester United can’t really lose from.
Having returned to Old Trafford with just twelve months left of his current terms following a decent if rather unspectacular loan stint at Real Madrid, many expected Chicarito to be given his marching orders this summer.
Indeed, as an out-and-out poacher with little influence preceding the penalty box, the Mexico international certainly doesn’t fit Louis van Gaal’s preferred mould of the ‘multifunctional footballer’, capable of adapting to various different roles and positions as the United gaffer tinkers his formation throughout the course of ninety minutes.
So LVG’s tacit implication in April that Hernandez’ Red Devils career had effectively come to an end already was no great surprise. “Chicharito’s future? I’ve already sent him away once,” said van Gaal after the striker put Real Madrid through to the Champions League semi-final with a winning goal against local rivals Atletico. “When you score a goal, as he has just done for Real Madrid, are you suddenly different? I don’t think so. I told him the same as I told Danny Welbeck, that he was again a substitute and I didn’t feel that was any good to him.”
But it appears the Iron Tulip, in rather uncharacteristic fashion, has undergone a change of heart. Reports last month revealed that West Ham received an unexpected response when inquiring into the 27 year-old’s availability and van Gaal has since suggested there will be a role for him at United next season. “He can prove himself again and now Falcao and Van Persie are gone, his chances are better,” said the Red Devils boss on July 20th, soon followed by; “normally we shall have a lot of matches so Chicharito can also play in that position,” in reply to questions regarding whether United will sign another striker this summer.
It’s worth pointing out that, in my opinion, Hernandez didn’t do much wrong the first time around. Goal scorers are worth their weight in gold in the Premier League and 5 foot 9 poacher boasts three consecutive campaigns of double figures, recording 37 goals in 102 league outings in total for the Red Devils, despite predominantly featuring from the bench. He perhaps hasn’t matured into the net rippling phenomena many expected when bursting onto the scene aged 22, yet from four seasons at Old Trafford there’s only one poor year to truly speak of – the 2013/14 campaign under David Moyes.
And if you base your opinions regarding Chicarito on that season alone, the worst in the club’s Premier League history, virtually every remaining member of United’s squad – with the exception of David De Gea and Wayne Rooney – should be deemed unfit for purpose and sold off to the Championship. Maroaune Fellaini has managed to bounce back rather emphatically – at one point last season earning the description of ‘undroppable’ from LVG – and I have full confidence in Hernandez’ potential to do the same.
Consequentially, Chicarito’s departure would make a decent contribution to Manchester United’s summer kitty; the theory being that if he can score ten goals per season from the bench, he will surpass that sum starting regularly, even at a club that create considerably less chances per match than the Red Devils.
We’re also talking about a striker who has featured in Champions League finals and the last two World Cups, so reported interest from the Premier League and yonder is no great surprise. Everton, West Ham, Valencia and Spurs – to name a few – have been linked with the striker already this summer and such widespread interest can only further increase his price tag, the tabloids estimating it to be somewhere in the region of £10million.
Yet, for a club like Manchester United – one of the few in world football who don’t have to concern themselves with the limits of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations – £10million is a drop in the ocean; a figure that LVG certainly wouldn’t turn up his nose at, but also one that won’t have any profound effect on the Dutchman’s planned summer spending.
Likewise, the Red Devils require Hernandez’ firepower for next season. Their rumoured pursuits of Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller and PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic have amounted to only speculation and tacit snubs thus far, and Wayne Rooney, despite his abundance of diverse talents, hasn’t enjoyed a 20-goal campaign since 2011/12.
Although LVG has publicly declared his confidence in the United and England skipper challenging for the Golden Boot next term, I’m yet to be convinced. No matter how talented, strikers can’t simply turn off and on their predatory instincts at will; evident enough through Rooney scoring just four times during the 14 Premier League fixtures he was deployed as an out-and-out centre-forward last season.
Thus, what would Manchester United really lose from letting Chicarito see out the remaining year of his contract, with the exception of an inconsequential transfer fee and less surplus in the wage bill? On the other hand, with the top end of the striker market currently verging upon baron, the issue of finding a replacement to the Mexican poacher seems like a particularly more convoluted dilemma than simply retaining him – a centre-forward who has already proved his goal-scoring credentials in the Premier League and most importantly, at Old Trafford.
The worst case scenario is that Hernandez affirms LVG’s prior suspicions, that he doesn’t fit the club’s new philosophy or meet the standard of striker required. The best case scenario, however, is that he proves the Dutchman wrong, equaling – or even surpassing – the consistent tallies of old. Either way, there’s no real disadvantage to keeping Hernandez for another year.